The Cloer Crepe Maker
Saturday, March 10, 2012
In 1966 John Sullivan, some friends of his and I went to a neighborhood restaurant in a Buenos Aires suburb of Belgrano called the Bodensee. It served up a menu that was mostly German.
Our waiter was very tall and very German. He offered us a wine list which included only Chilean wines. Since we were patriotic Argentines proud of our local wines we demurred on his offers and opted for beer. For dinner we had soup, salad, tallarines (a form of spaghetti) and for the main course we had very large bifes a caballo
( an Argentine cut of meat with a fried egg on top). For dessert we had German panqueques
(thinnish pancakes that went over the rims of large platters in which they were served. On top they came with a concoction of butter, apples and brown sugar. We finished it all off with strong expresso.
There is something about youth and how youth can communicate without the need of words. Our waiter asked us if there was anything else. We all looked at each other and then in unison, we said, “Serve it all, all over again.” We ate twice.
In spite of all that food the beer had taken its toll and we were all giddy with pleasure. We were a happy bunch. Since this was Argentina in the mid 60s there were still quite a few small Fiat 500s and 1500s on the street not to mention the odd three-wheeled Messerschmitts and Heinkels (not sure if both were three-wheelers). Every one of those cars that we encountered in the dark streets back home we picked up and placed it on the sidewalk in transverse position, behind a tree, to make it more difficult for the owner to move in the morning. We thought this was very funny and we laughed loudly.
I think it may have been then when I developed a taste for pancakes and all their variants.
In the late 80s when I returned to Buenos Aires I made sure I went back to the confiterías on Calle Corrientes and ordered panqueques
(like the German variety these were large and thin) with butter and dulce de leche.
Since that time I have avoided eating or making the thick variety. I thin my pancake mix as much as possible and with a stove which I have levelled as best as I can, I make pancakes that almost rival crepes.
But if the batter is too thin, they run to one end of the pan or are impossible to pick up with the lifter even if the pan is of the best Dupont non-stick surface.
My granddaughters love my pancakes (my wife Rosemary doesn’t) so it a treat for them (and for me too, as it gives me the excuse to make them) when they come for breakfast or I make pancakes for an afternoon tea (the girls will usually drink thick and sweet Mexican chocolate). I like my pancakes with either confectionary or regular sugar with plenty of unsalted butter of the cultured kind. The girls like theirs with brown sugar and cinnamon.
A special treat is to go to the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library for an afternoon. The girls know that I will take them across the street to the crepe place on Robson
run by, I believe, a French-speaking Tunisian who makes excellent lemon crepes. By the time we have consumed one crepe each, the bill is close to $20 and we resist ordering more. I have always left the restaurant with pangs for more crepes until I cannot have one more, but money talks.
On Thursday I purchased ($50 at London Drugs) a Cloer crepe maker that works every time without fail. That Thursday evening Rosemary had one and I had an even dozen. I improved the Tunisian’s recipe by using a real lemon (not Real Lemon) and putting a small amount of vanilla into the basic crepe mix.
Lauren came today at 2, ready for her crepes. We both indulged. We kept some batter in the fridge and in the evening, before our Saturday movie we treated Hilary with some lemon crepes. Of course, Lauren and I both had some, too.
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward - Photographer
Friday, March 09, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward - Photographer
It was 1952 in Buenos Aires, a Buenos Aires with no Chinese, Japanese and the only Indians I had really seen (not knowing that the beggars on movie row on Lavalle were Bolivian aboriginals) were three turbaned Sikhs. They worked with my father at the Indian Embassy, and he had invited them for his home-cooked curry. They came in their Hillman Minx and, for days after, my friends of Calle Melián enquired about the exotic dark men and their turbans.
Exotic for me were red Indians or the inhabitants of a far away land we in Argentina called “La Conchichina”.
It was many, many years later that I found out it was the ancient name for Vietnam.
When my mother came back from an exploratory trip to Mexico in 1952 I found out about the truly exotic. She spoke of volcanoes and pyramids, of Aztecs and of a curandera
who had read her hand and told her that she would be moving soon to those parts. My mother spoke of a magical city where during the rainy season it would rain for a couple of hours every day and the sun would shine right after as before.
She had brought little obsidian idols that my uncle Bill Humphrey had sent. She told me how Aztec priests had used knives made from the same black volcanic glass to cut into the chests of their captives and how with their bare hands they would rip out the still-beating hearts as an offer to Huitzilopochtli.
It was about then when all the blood and gore was in my mind that she showed my abuelita and me a red rebozo. It was a red I had never seen before and a red I have not seen since except every time I lovingly and so carefully remove it from the Mexican Olinalá chest, made of a sweet scented wood, where it resides and has since we left Mexico for Canada in 1975.
The curandera had been right and we had indeed moved to exotic Mexico in July of 1954. During all my years there, until my mother died in 1972 it was the red rebozo that my mother would put on to go to parties or church. She had various ways of putting it on. For me it was magic. While many admire the softness of silk, I found a special pleasure in rubbing the rough cotton against my cheek. It could hurt if I wasn’t careful.
In some ways the rebozo has always reminded me of my mother’s ways. She would often tell me that love was not expressing it but doing. She proved this all her life by penny pinching to save from her salary enough money to send me to the best schools or to buy me whatever I would demand as children do so without knowing the sacrifice needed.
But it was difficult to get a hug from her or a kiss. I don’t remember her kissing me much but I do remember my father doing so. What my mother did do was smell me behind my ears. She said I had a lovely scent of an Englishman. I was allowed to do same, to smell behind her ears which always smelled of Chanel Number 5 of Jean Patou’s Joy. Smell was very important to her. I inherited that ability and its sense of importance. She told me that Mexico, as soon as you got off an airplane smelled of a combination of tortillas, smoke and the lime used to make nixtamal from which Mexicans make their tortillas. Getting off a plane in Ezeiza in Buenos Aires was like walking into a restaurant specializing in steaks. Buenos Aires constantly smelled of meat roasting was her assertion. As an afterthought she told me that deplaning in the United States was all about the smell of French fries.
My mother’s red rebozo, smells of that sweet Olinalá wood from the Mexican state of Guerrero. Her scent is gone. But its roughness remains, to remind me always, that loving isn’t expressing it with a passionate embrace but by the sacrifice of doing what you can.
But to this day, especially in the gray of the rainy Vancouver winters, a season full (as in all the other seasons) of exotic Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Hindus and Sikhs and Aboriginal Canadians, it is only the blood red colour of my mother’s rebozo that fills me with a yearning for the truly exotic, a Mexico of volcanoes and earth colours and a roughness that reminds me of an opposite.
That opposite is the kiss and embrace of my father. Perhaps my mother was much to shy to tell me that she, too, suspected, that love has to be both.
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart - Student
Thursday, March 08, 2012
My Mother's Red Shawl - El Rebozo Colorado
Lauren Elizabeth Stewart - Student
It was itchy. I like the red rebozo because it is pretty. I like the red rebozo because red is my favourite colour. I think that when my great grandmother Filomena put it on it was itchy for her, too. It’s fun when papi takes my picture. And when I have my picture taken I get to have makeup. My older sister Rebecca makes me up. I don’t smile for pictures because Papi likes my face serious.
And some of the others
in the red shawl series
Panych's Gordon Cleanses The Soul With Violence
Wednesday, March 07, 2012
In 1971 my wife Rosemary and I lived in Mexico City. We were teachers and in order to get to our jobs we had to drive through the horrendous bumper to bumper traffic of the Periférico
. No matter how carefully I drove it was one-fender-bender-per-year kind of drive. By the time Friday arrived we were exhausted and full of big-city angst. It was on one of those Fridays that Rosemary and I went to see Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs
. As violence escalated in the film I could feel my angst rising up but paradoxically when it was all over and the credits began to run I felt like a good Roman Catholic who had just emerged from the sacrament of penance. I felt I was in a state of grace, purified by the blood and gore.
It was much the same I felt tonight when I attended the opening performance of Morris Panych’s (with set and costume design by partner and friend Ken MacDonald) Gordon
(directed by Panych)
at the Arts Club Theatre’s Revue Stage on Granville Island.
|Morris Panych & Ken MacDonald |
The cast, Carl,(Patrick Costello), Deirdre, (Pippa Mackie), Gordon, (Todd Thomson), and Gord, (Andrew Wheeler) was superb. To me Patrick Costello (playing an intelligence challenged small time hood) stood out as the best of the best but I saw elements of my precocious 14-year-old granddaughter in Pippa Mackie that chilled me.
But by the end of the night the extreme violence of this play made me think that if I were to spend my last days on a desert island with Todd Thomson’s Gordon (an ever so cool psychopath) and the play’s director Morris Panych (an ever so cool-looking psychopath) I would either be entertained for life or I would opt for taking my chances with the sharks. As a father and grandfather I understood all the motives that led Andrew Wheeler as Gordon’s father to the violence so aptly choreographed by our very own fight director Nicholas Harrison.
At one point, Rosemary asked me, "What's that?" They were ominous sounds and bits of music that with the dimming of the lights marked the beginning of Gordon's two acts. This is important to set the mood in a venue that has no curtains. I explained to her that it was the sound design of Patrick Pennefather who also composes music for many of our local dance companies.
While I warn anybody who might consider going to see this terrific play that the comedy part of this black comedy is rather slim and that the “excuse my French” language is almost constant, Gordon is a palate cleanser for the soul, particularly if you choose to attend on a Friday.
|Morris Panych & Ken MacDonald|
This blog gives me the opportunity to post here my three portrait sessions with Mr. Panych. I saw him at the opening last night and I could discern that warm look on his face which somehow does not match the b+w picture of him alone here. I remember he was most demanding (and I like that in my subjects) for that photograph and that there were intimations that the tough expression that he gave me were weighing on the Teddy bear that he really is.
If someone were to ask me, “Which playwright, above all others would you like to spend an evening having dinner with?” my answer would be unequivocal, “Morris Panych.”
|Nicole McLuckie & Morris Panych|
Of Concrete, Aggregators & Simon Ogden's Stupid Robots
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Aggregate is a 15th century borrowing from Latin. It descends from “aggregare” (“to add to”), a Latin verb made up of the prefix “ad-” (which means “to,” and which usually changes to “ag-” before a “g”) and “greg-” or “grex” (meaning “flock”). “Greg-” also gave us “congregate,” “gregarious,” and “segregate.”
“Aggregate” is commonly employed in the phrase “in the aggregate,” which means “considered as a whole” (as in the sentence “In the aggregate, the student’s various achievements were sufficiently impressive to merit a scholarship”). “Aggregate” also has some specialized senses. For example, it is used for a mass of minerals formed into a rock and for a material, such as sand or gravel, used to form concrete, mortar, or plaster.
|Igor Stravinsky by Arnold Newman - Rodney Graham by Alex W-H|
It is interesting to me to know (and I was taught this in the 9th grade by Brother Hubert Koeppen) that the Romans invented concrete. In many respects the present age, the 21st century, which I would call the age of the photon, was made possible by the Roman use of concrete to build bridges and aqueducts. Bridges and aqueducts brought communities together in what really may have been the beginning of the age of communication. It seems that memory of concrete was forgotten with the fall of Rome but the knowledge came back a few centuries later.
Our most famous Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson, whose major structures are all made from concrete, would be the first to tell you that a structure of pure cement would collapse. It is the gravel/stone aggregate which the cement binds together, and the ability of this mixture to solidify/cook under water is what makes concrete such a great building material. In other words the lowly gravel has made the creation of Gothic cathedrals, which have soared in a human offering to the glory of God, such a rich element in the history of earthly art and architecture.
Until recently aggregate was a word used in English just as something that is added to a mixture. In Spanish we not only use it every day such as in agregar una cucharita de sal al estofado (add a teaspoon of salt to the stew) but it has other surprising meanings. An agregado cultural is a cultural attaché at an embassy. And agregado militar we know is a euphemism for a spy!
But of late I have come to understand what Simon Ogden (his Twitter handle @ogdengnash says “I know a little about the arts of theatre & cocktail construction.”) meant when a couple of years ago he said to me with distaste, “Aggregators are stupid robots.”
|Mel Ferrer & Audrey Hepburn by Bert Stern|
Allan Fotheringham & daughter Francesca by Alex W-H
Aggregators, web pages that compile data from other sources were quite rampant some years ago in most large cities. In Vancouver we had VancouverIAM which brought together blogs, news, ads, etc about Vancouver all into one web page.
Some at the time would have thought that it was far better to read local news there and save the money and effort of reading a hard copy newspaper or going to a newspaper website where the news could be found in much too much detail.
I have been wondering why these aggregators (such a foul sounding word and yes, Simon Odgen I now understand about those stupid robots) seem to have disappeared.
It is possible that facebook is an aggregator of sorts. Facebook is now a very large compilation of pictures of aphorisms. It is an aggregator of aphorisms and the sight of them, more and more as days go by, repulses me. Do I need someone to tell me, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” followed by a legion of “I likes”? Would these people utter this stuff in person?
A second aspect of facebook as an aggregator is its contribution of populous art. What makes some of this art (it can be quite good) problematic is that it is sometimes posted with no attribution. Since ignorance of art is so widespread some viewing this art might think that it is the work of the person posting it.
A third facebook aggregator function is to post videos of films, jazz, rock, etc.
I must clarify a point here that what bothers me about these music postings is that they are rarely submitted with a personal explanation as to why we should click on them.
At the end of the day what bothers me the most is that these facebook posters are not manufacturing/making/creating anything. As my grandmother used to say, “saludando con sombrero ajeno,” or greeting you with someone else’s hat. It is so simple to cut and paste. It is even simpler to click an “I like” without committing to an opinion as to why you agree. And of course there can rarely be any dissent because we are all part of a happy family where we can cease the horrors of Darfur, Syria and Nigeria by the on-line signing of a letter.
Any Roman could tell you. It is not enough to throw in little pebbles (or aggregates) to the mix. You need cement as a binder. And to make cement someone has to crush lime, bake it, etc. That takes effort. How can “I like” that?
My two examples here of photographs from other photographers that have inspired me to take for other publications, the Globe&Mail and Vancouver Magazine are based on my belief that inspiration does not have to be all plagiarism if the photographer, in this case me, adds (aggregates) something of himself to the mix.
Who Shaves The Barber?
Monday, March 05, 2012
I have been working on my Me&My Project with some frustration. There are some people who have posed for me but have yet to send me their essays. Today I photographed my granddaughter Lauren who will be simply Lauren Elizabeth Stewart – Student. But I also had to do another which I thought was important too. Who shaves the barber? In my case I took a picture (what you see here is the Fujifilm instant print) of myself. The instant print does not show enough space over my head. I think I may have corrected that with the real film. I took pictures using my usual Ektachrome 100G which has recently been discontinued. I also used a roll of Fuji Astia which is supposed to be the equivalent of my Ektachrome. I will compare the results.
How do you think I took the picture? The camera in this shot is the camera, lens and tripod that I use in all the Me&My Project photographs. I am holding a bulb with which I take my portrait. The bulb is firing an identical Mamiya RB-67 opposite the one here and it has an identical lens (the 140mm) but the tripod is another. I thought of using a mirror but the picture would have differed from the others in the project.
Ektachrome Blues & Greens & Cyans
Sunday, March 04, 2012
It was inevitable that it was going to happen. Kodak has announced that it will soon stop the manufacture of slide film. The film that I use is a specialized slide film called transparency film. It is in a larger format of 120 and it fits my Mamiya RB-67. Ektachrome has been my film of choice for most of my magazine shooting life, which means up until about a couple of years ago. But I still shoot Ektachrome for my own projects. I can still blow away audiences when I project these slides using my Linhof 6x7cm (the size of my slides) projector which happens to have Leitz lenses. The experience, while digital projectors catch up, is unique.
But slide film and shooting it wasn’t always all as good as people who swore by Kodachrome (let’s have three minutes of silence here) said it was. A typical problem I wrestled with for years was the photography of people in a studio where I liked to use a gray wall or gray paper backdrop. No matter what I did the returning material had some sort of small colour cast and the gray was never a neutral gray. It always had a bit of green, blue or cyan in it. With the methods for printing used then, the gray could never be made gray without affecting the skin tones of my subjects.
For some time now I have been jealous of my students who shoot digital with few exceptions, and their ability not only to achieve a neutrality of gray but to also achieve the Holy Grail of good portraiture which is to capture the skin colour of a red haired person without sacrificing the modification in tone of their brilliant hair.
Some who shoot slide film do so for some specialized reasons. One of them is called cross processing. It involves processing slide film as if it were colour negative. The result, in my humble opinion is a disaster that is usually oohed and aahed by the fashion crowd. Here in this blog are examples of Ektachrome E-4 (the Ektachrome that was to be eventually replaced by the modern but now to be defunct E-6) process as C-41 colour negative. Note how the skies have been washed out and the increase of contrast. I had a good time (but challenging) attempting to scan these here for your observation. Ugh!
The other picture was taken, with Kodacolor Film by one of the employees at Tilden Rent-A-Car on Alberni Street where I was working in 1976. The picture was taken with a 20mm wide angle (why? I have no idea). The lighting was florescent so the negatives if scanned normally would be very green. This is the best I could do. Notice me smoking my pipe and not realizing that life would eventually get very complicated, and that once again, now it is becoming much less so.